When Mohammed bin Salman was touring the UK and US earlier this year, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia – and its de facto ruler – could have relied almost exclusively on businesses backed by the kingdom’s money.
Landing in London, “MBS” might have dispensed with his chauffeur-driven car, travelling into the capital by Uber, while his aides finalised his itinerary on smartphones powered with chips designed by Cambridge-based ARM Holdings. After glad-handing bank chiefs in the City, any investment plans they discussed could have been further developed using cloud office app Slack.
On the US leg of the journey, perhaps slumming it in an Accor hotel, MBS and his entourage might have dialled up a plate of the Saudi national rice dish, kabsa, from delivery service DoorDash. Later, they could have relaxed by playing computer games partly designed by simulation technology firm Improbable.
Every one of these companies is part of the portfolio of Riyadh’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which manages the country’s oil wealth. Under the stewardship of the young prince – he is just 33 – the PIF has adopted a more aggressive investment approach, seeking out eye-catching, forward-looking deals, particularly technology startups. Its aim is to increase the pot from $250bn to $2 trillion in the next 12 years.
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